SOUTHWEST OF SALEM: THE STORY OF THE SAN ANTONIO FOUR, the documentary of four Latina lesbians wrongfully convicted, many believed targeted for their sexual identities, will premiere on television on Investigation Discovery (ID).
1994, four Latina lesbians were wrongfully convicted of aggravated sexual assault and indecency against two young girls in San Antonio, TX. In 2012 and 2013, after one of the accusers recanted and the forensic evidence used in the trial was debunked, Elizabeth Ramirez, Anna Vasquez, Kristie Mayhugh and Cassandra Rivera were released from prison … but they are still without freedom. Waging an ongoing fight for their exoneration, SOUTHWEST OF SALEM follows documentarian Deborah S. Esquenazi as she captures the nightmarish persecution and devastating impact on the “San Antonio Four” and their families. Critically acclaimed and lauded at Tribeca, Hot Docs, and AFI Film Festivals, SOUTHWEST OF SALEM presents an intense and maddening reinvestigation into the bizarre allegations waged against these women during the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980-90s, and examines the disturbing injustices by which they were targeted for their sexual identities. Calling upon viewers to help #FreeTheSA4, Investigation Discovery will air the world television premiere of SOUTHWEST OF SALEM: THE STORY OF THE SAN ANTONIO FOUR exclusively under its independent documentary strand films banner, ID FILMS, on Saturday, October 15 from 8-10 PM ET.
“SOUTHWEST OF SALEM is an emotionally riveting and gut-wrenching film, that delivers a stark reminder that our justice system is not always so just,” said Henry Schleiff, Group President, Investigation Discovery, American Heroes Channel and Destination America. “With ID’s platform and reach, we are proud to present this project on behalf of the San Antonio Four, which we hope will galvanize our impassioned viewers to help fix this clear miscarriage of justice and further combat LGBTQ intolerance.”
SOUTHWEST OF SALEM begins its journey inside a Texas prison, over a decade after Ramirez, Rivera, Mayhugh and Vasquez were put behind bars. Documentarian Deborah S. Esquenazi weaves together emotional interviews with the women (labeled the San Antonio Four) and their families with actual news footage and home videos, equally showcasing the injustice of the situation and the families that were torn apart as a result. Unique to the San Antonio Four case, none of the four women ever took a plea bargain or even considered it, despite serving their time in separate prisons. While the state offered deferred adjudication, requiring no time in prison but probation for ten years, the women turned down the offer, maintaining their innocence and faith in truth and justice. Ultimately, Elizabeth Ramirez received a 37.5 year sentence, while her friends, Anna, Cassie, and Kris, were convicted for 15 years each. Esquenazi also follows the work of attorneys from the Innocence Project of Texas, who played a pivotal role in securing an on-camera recantation by one of the victims, now 27 years old – and the women’s ultimate release from prison in 2012 and ’13. Today, the San Antonio Four continue their fight for exoneration in tandem with the Innocence Project, and their case is currently up for review with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. A hearing date has not yet been set.
Call to Action
Please take 2 minutes to help the San Antonio Four with their exoneration battle:
1. Call 1-210-335-2311 and ask for District Attorney Nico LaHood’s office. Here’s what to say: “I am angered by Judge Pat Priest’s ruling to not recommend exoneration for Elizabeth Ramirez, Cassandra Rivera, Anna Vasquez, and Kristie Mayhugh. I want Nico LaHood and the District Attorney’s office of Bexar County to take a stand on the San Antonio Four case to declare actual innocence and have the women exonerated for their wrongful convictions.”
2. Tweet/Facebook the district attorney’s office to take a stand! Twitter: @BexarCounty @BexarDA Take a stand about the @SanAntonioFour injustice! Recommend exoneration #FreetheSA4 @IPofTexas #southwestOfSalem
Facebook: I am angered by Judge Pat Priest’s ruling to not recommend exoneration for Elizabeth Ramirez, Cassandra Rivera, Anna Vasquez, and Kristie Mayhugh. I want Nico LaHood and the District Attorney’s office of @Bexar County to take a stand on the San Antonio Four case to declare actual innocence and have the women exonerated for their wrongful convictions. #FreetheSA4 #SouthwestOfSalem.
Innocence Project works 100% pro bono. You can support their efforts to exonerate the SA4 and hundreds of other innocent incarcerated folks at www.southwestofsalem.com/actnow